Vast and sprawling, my adopted city of St. Petersburg, Florida, is booming. And as a former New Yorker who sometimes misses the Gotham hustle and bustle, I couldn’t be happier to see all the construction sites peppering our lovely waterfront downtown. Palm tree, crane, palm tree, jackhammers. It’s a lively mix of cocktail shakers and forward momentum.
Nestled away in back of the building that houses the stunning new James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art is another gem of an addition to the St. Pete scene: Woodhouse Spa. At 6000+ square feet, with 18 treatment rooms and a killer retail area stocked with organic skincare brands, groovy spiritual jewelry, and cozy loungewear, it’s definitely next-level for “the Sunshine City.”
Cast in a driftwood-chic palette of stone, silver, and sage, it’s beautiful. But at the same time, it oozes a particular brand of Floridian Southern charm. Take the Quiet Room, for example. To assist you in flipping through the curated stack of glossy mags while you’re sipping a glass of bubbly or herbal tea, there’s a handy basket of readers in varying magnification strengths. And to satisfy between-treatment snack cravings, big glass jars dispense three varieties of spa “ciao / chow.” Think dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, a dash of coconut. Even if you don’t order-in a spa lunch from the Canyon Café at the James Museum around the corner, there’s no way you’re walking out of Woodhouse hungry.
Or tense. Tense is not an option here.
Before popping in for my treatments on a scorching hot mid-October day, I had a brief phone consult with the owner, Ginger Lettelleir. Because the St. Pete location is one of 63 Woodhouse Spas sprinkled across the U.S., my goal was to partake in offerings that were as indigenous as possible. “What really says ‘St. Pete’?’” I asked. “What’s your ‘signature’?”
Not surprisingly, Ginger knew just the thing(s): a Vichy shower and beaucoup seaweed. Sure the bladderwrack hails from the icy coast of Brittany rather than steamy Tampa Bay, but no worries. What Ginger had in store for me was all very watery and totally apropos.
And when I say the Vichy shower was a revelation, I’m not being hyperbolic. I’ve had oodles of body treatments in my day, but this was pretty spectacular. I never wanted it to end. A long-time beauty editor who has fretted her way through many a weekday spa visit, itching to get back to the office, for me to lay there without squirming is a testament to how much fun it was.
Sure the bladderwrack hails from the icy coast of Brittany rather than steamy Tampa Bay, but no worries. What Ginger had in store for me was all very watery and totally apropos.
Technically, the 50-minute treatment is called a Wild Lavender & Seaweed Sugar Glow. It starts with a light massage— “Third Eye” around the brows and temples, “cat paws” on the shoulders, a gentle foot rub. “It’s important that we get every client to calm down before starting a treatment,” noted Jessica, my therapist. I hadn’t really thought about that before, but it struck me as so smart; if you’re wired and hyper when you walk through a spa’s doors, it isn’t optimal. To truly get the most out of any adventure in relaxation, you might need to do some preliminary de-stressing first.
But back to the Vichy shower. As you’re breathing in the essential oils, the sweetness of the wild lavender is tempered by the wild, oceanic—but not overpowering—scent of the seaweed. Once the scrub is all rubbed-on, polishing the skin in the process, the water starts. Back and forth, shoulders to toes, over and over. And just when you’re about to drift off, the temperature of the H20 shifts from warm and soothing to . . . pleasantly chilly. “You okay with this?” asked Jessica at the first blast of cool water. “Some clients say, ‘don’t you dare touch me with that cold stuff.’” Next comes another full-body rubdown with moisturizer. By the time it all ended, it was all I could do to scrape myself off that padded table, slip on my robe, and waddle back out into the hall.
But waddle I must, because it was on to my next treatment, an 80-minute signature facial known as the Minkyti. Designed to be both relaxing and anti-aging, it also makes heavy use of seaweed. In fact, at one point, my mug was so encased in bladderwrack I felt like a piece of human sushi. In a good way, mind you; it was cool and dark under there, and once again I was on the verge of dozing off. But then came a few layers of tingle-inducing alpha hydroxy acid and enzymes, and I woke right back up. In some regards, the Minkyti is like the facial version of the lavender and seaweed Vichy shower: alternately calming and bracing. Ask for Jackie; she’s seriously on top of her game and a wealth of knowledge about all things skin and seaweed.
There are so many other treatments I want to try at Woodhouse St. Pete that I know I’ll be checking them off my beauty bucket list for seasons to come.
Too much time on the tennis court has resulted in a constellation of dark spots across my cheeks, so I have a few options for correction on this front: Restore And Firm Microderm, which basically sandblasts dull skin patches, and the Illuminating Facial which deploys a two-layer peel and a succession of masks to enlighten you.
And as a situational (rather than chronic) insomniac, I’m excited to have no fewer than five massage-based sleep treatments to choose from, including Shirodhara, in which warm essential oils are dripped onto the forehead to halt “mind chatter.” And I’m dying to try the Lazy Days Renewal Ritual, a mashup of scrub, massage, and soak that takes place in a softly lit room replete with a claw-foot tub. Like any self-respecting spa junkie, I’m all about a long soak in a fabulous tub. —The Woodhouse Day Spa St. Pete